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Money and mental health

We can’t separate money worries from our mental health

It’s hard to dispute how important our mental health is, yet we can often be blind to how closely our finances and mental health are interwoven. This Talk Money Week I want to let you know that if you are having money issues, you are not alone – and there are people who can help. Do not suffer in silence.

Adding coronavirus to The Mix

The Mix is the UK’s digital safety net for young people. This year we witnessed a frightening rise in enquiries from young people who were overwhelmed by anxieties driven by the suffocating effects of lockdown.

From the outset, money was a huge part of this. We saw a:

· 334% rise in people reading about searching for a job

· 160% rise in people reading about housing benefit

· 138% rise in people reading about emergency support.

The Mix’s youth panel talked to other young people to get a picture of how COVID-19 had affected themselves and their peers. 141 youth reps aged 11-24 representing groups from across England responded. They reported worries about affording rent and the cost of living, the price of technology when having a working laptop and internet connection have become non-negotiable for work and education, and the stress faced by young people who have lost work or are part of families where primary carers had faced a drop in income.

Underpinning all of these issues is the impact financial worries had on young people’s mental health.

In particular, they spoke about how not being able to afford to go out led to social isolation, the stress and worry of uncontrolled debt, and how addictions (drugs, alcohol and gambling) can worsen a person’s financial situation. Many of these pressures were felt to intensify during university or early working years.

It is therefore not surprising that research commissioned for this year’s Talk Money Week found that: younger people are worrying about money much more frequently than older generations. The majority (71%) of 18-24-year-olds said they’re worrying about money once a week or more and 28% worry at least once a day.

How to support young people

The ability to understand, make, save and use money is closely linked to how well we all can cope with the challenges life throws at us. It therefore stands to reason that if we want our young people to live happy, healthy lives we should invest in the skills to help them build strong financial futures.

However, the reality is that young people have had to face stifling barriers to building financial resilience, poor social mobility and a shrinking jobs market have all been amplified by the coronavirus pandemic.

While I realise changing historic underinvestment in youth support in a challenging economic environment cannot be done overnight, in the short term we can make real improvements to the financial education of young people.

The argument for increased financial education for young people may not be new but both the findings of The Mix and the results of the MaPS study offer strong evidence to support it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented exceptional financial challenges to young people, we need to open our eyes to the fact that the epidemic of poor mental health faced by this generation goes hand in hand, and will only worsen if we fail to respond.

Much of the above feels like big changes, but big change only happens when individuals take responsibility. You can help support young people right now by reading guidance on preparing your child for student life or talking to children about money on the Money Advice Service website.

How to support myself

If you are a young person with money worries it may feel like money is taking over your life, but it does not have to be that way. Our mission is that every young person should be able to make informed choices about their physical and mental well-being to ensure they live happy, healthy lives.

Talking is the first step. 9-13 November 2020 is Talk Money Week, and at The Mix we provide free, anonymous advice and crisis support designed especially for under 25s. We are open 24 hours a day. We listen, answer questions and make connections for young people using the digital and mobile platforms that they turn to first. If you or a young person you know are having any sort of worries, you can contact The Mix via our online community, on social, through our free, confidential helpline or our counselling service (0808 808 4994).

Chris Martin – CEO – The Mix

Chris is the leader of an amazing team at The Mix, the UK’s digital safety net for young people. They talk about everything in young people’s lives; from money to housing, from school to family relationships with a focus on supporting positive mental health. As a gadget lover, Chris is passionate about digital for social good. He is also a trustee of the Harrow Club W10 and a fellow of the RSA.

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